The best large breed dog food is designed to provide the right nutrients for their big bodies.
But it also needs to be tasty, easy to chew and digest.
Owning a large breed dog comes with large responsibilities.
Large breed dogs may have different nutritional requirements than small breed dogs.
They are also more prone to different health problems, like joint disease and bloat.
This means that you need to find the best large breed dog food for your dog’s health, as well as your budget.
Sorting through all the options in the pet store or online is not only confusing, but the claims of the feed manufacturers can be downright misleading.
Luckily, we’ve done some of the work for you.
All of these products were carefully and independently selected by The Happy Puppy Site team. If you decide to make a purchase from one of the links marked by an asterisk, we may earn a small commission on that sale. This is at no extra cost to you.
Large breed dog food
On a basic level, large breed dog food is similar to dog food for small and medium sized dog breeds.
Both contain meats, normally grains, vegetables, and even fruits.
All intended to help meet dog food regulations and nutritional standards.
These ingredients provide your dog with protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in a form that is easily digested.
But there are a few differences.
Large breed dog food may also contain supplements like glucosamine to help prevent joint disease like osteoarthritis.
Most importantly, however, is the difference between large breed puppy food and other dog food.
Large and giant breed puppies not only grow quickly, but they also grow for longer periods of time than other breeds.
To put it into perspective, a 100 pound German Shepherd starts off life as a one pound puppy.
Growing 100 pounds or more in only 18 months makes large breed dogs more sensitive to nutrient imbalances.
Understanding large breed dog food labels
Choosing the best big dog food begins with the label.
Labels won’t tell you everything about your dog’s food, but they will tell you a few important things.
Including the nutritional guaranteed analysis, the intended life stage, and whether or not the food meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulations.
The nutritional analysis can be confusing.
The best way to interpret it is to ask your veterinarian what your large dog needs.
For example, a highly active, working large breed dog might need a different balance of protein and carbohydrates than a sedentary, senior large breed dog.
Your veterinarian may also recommend a dog food with or without a specific ingredient.
Especially if they suspect a food allergy, and for at-risk breeds veterinarians may even recommend foods with added joint supplements.
Let’s talk about life stages.
Best Large Breed Dog Food At Different Life Stages
‘Life stage’ refers to your dog’s stage in life.
The life stages recognized by the AAFCO include growth, adult maintenance, reproduction, or all life stages.
Buying the right life stage is especially important for large breed puppies and breeding females.
Labels can also be confusing.
Most owners look at the ingredient list.
However, what goes into your dog’s food is not always as important as the nutrient profiling.
You may feel good about seeing blueberries and sweet potatoes in your dog’s food.
But if the food has not undergone extensive clinical trials, then you have no way of knowing if it will provide your dog with the nutrients he needs.
By-products get a bad reputation in America, but by-products like organ meats and entrails can actually provide more nutrients than the muscle meat that Americans prefer.
Many claims made on labels don’t yet have regulations behind them.
Phrases like “all natural,” “holistic,” or “human grade ingredients” are not regulated.
Companies that use these phrases may mean well, but it also could be a marketing strategy.
Make sure you follow up by verifying if they meet AAFCO standards.
Complete and balanced, however, means that the dog food has been tested and undergone feeding trials to ensure that it provides a complete and balanced diet.
Large breed dry dog food
Dry dog food is the most convenient and affordable way to feed your dog.
It is easy to store and easy to measure, and there are hundreds of choices.
Plus, specially formulated dry food may even help clean your dog’s teeth.
Choosing dry food over canned or other diets will help you save money, and in most cases dry food is a healthy, nutritious choice.
As you begin your search, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Larger pet food companies have larger budgets, which in some cases allows them to perform more clinical trials and hire nutrition specialists.
Smaller companies do not always have these resources, but that does not necessarily mean that you should overlook them.
If you see a smaller name brand that appeals to you, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer with your questions.
Best large breed dog food reviews
Since labels are so confusing, one of the easiest ways to find out about a specific dog food is to read best large breed dog food reviews.
We have selected some of our personal top choices of the best large breed dog food products.
Wellness Complete Health Natural
A very popular choice is Wellness Complete Health Natural large breed dog food*.
This big, chunky kibble has added glucosomine and chondroitin. It is wheat free and made with deboned chicken.
AvoDerm Natural Dog Food
Produced specifically for large breed dogs, AvoDerm Natural Dog food* comes in a chicken meal and brown rice formula.
It also contains added chondroitin and glucosamine. And claims to support a healthy immune system, skin and coat.
Hill’s Science Diet For Large Breed Dogs
Next we have Hill’s Science Diet’s Large Breed formula*.
It is designed for adult dogs weighing over 55 lbs and contains natural sources of chondroitin and glucosamine.
They use high quality proteins and contain antioxidants and vitamins that your dog needs to stay healthy.
Blue Life Adult Dog Food
Blue Life have an Adult Dog Food* for Large Breed Dogs.
They have four different flavors aimed at being the best large breed dog food.
So even if your pup is a picky eater, there should be something he will like here.
Another strong contender is Nutro Wholesome Essentials*.
Could it be the best large breed dog food for your pet?
Containing natural sources of chondroitin and glucosamine, they claim to be formulated to promote joint health.
Along with ingredients that support a healthy immune system too.
Nutro Wholesome Grain Free
They also have a tasty Nutro Wholesome Grain Free* option.
Best dog food for large breed puppies
Large breed puppies grow quickly.
It is reasonable to assume that this means they need a lot of food.
Too much nutrition, however, can cause excessive growth in large breed puppies.
This puts them at risk of developing serious health conditions, which are categorized as developmental orthopedic diseases.
Like hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and panosteitis.
So what makes large breed puppy foods different from other foods?
Large breed puppy foods are lower in fat, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D than other puppy food formulas.
This helps your puppy grow at an appropriate speed, and helps prevent joint and bone disease.
It is also important to measure out your large breed puppy’s food.
Free feeding, even of specially formulated large dog puppy food, can cause developmental orthopedic disease in large breed dogs.
Restricted fed dogs have lower incidences and later onset of osteoarthritis.
Keeping this up for their lifetime also restricts the severity of arthritis in dogs that do end up with it.
As you search, look for the AAFCO statement on the dog food to see if it meets the guidelines for large breed puppies.
If it meets the nutritional requirements, the label will say “[Pet Food Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog
Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/all life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70lbs or more as an adult).
If it is not, it will say, “[Pet Food Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/all life stages except for growth of large-size dogs (70lbs or more as an adult).
Best dry dog food for large breed puppies
While the best large breed puppy dog food will vary from household to household and puppy to puppy, here are some of the top-rated brands of dry dog food for large breed puppies to help you start your search.
Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Dry Puppy Food
Hills Science Diet* is often recommended by veterinarians, thanks to the diligent research they have performed over the years and their line of prescription diets.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food
Purina performs extensive food trials, making them a reliable and reasonably priced choice*.
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Large Breed Puppy Food
While Wellness* uses words like ‘natural’ and ‘holistic’ and tends to focus on ingredients in their advertising, they do appear to have veterinarians and nutritionists on staff.
As your pup ages, talk to your veterinarian about the best dry dog food for large breeds.
Best senior dog food: Large breed seniors
Many dogs can remain on adult maintenance foods their entire lives.
Adult dog food provides the necessary nutrition healthy senior dogs need.
However, as our dogs age, they may develop health conditions that require special diets.
Prescription veterinary diets can help keep your dog feeling and acting his best.
Dogs with age related diseases like osteoarthritis or even canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) could benefit from a prescription diet from a company like Hills Science Diet if recommended by their veterinarians.
For dogs who do not need a prescription diet, large breed dog food formulas that contain additional joint supplements, like Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog Food are often sufficient.
But Hill’s Science Diet’s Active Longevity* is designed to keep your dog healthier for longer.
You can also buy a few foods designed specifically for senior large breed dogs.
Purina’s Bright Minds
Like Purina’s Bright Minds Senior Large Breed Dog Food*.
It contains around 30% high quality protein and 14% fat, with glucosamine too.
This senior dog food is aimed at dogs over the age of six.
Best inexpensive dog food for large breeds
Large breed dogs are, well, large.
They eat more food than smaller breed dogs, tend to have larger medical bills.
And may even require lifestyle accommodations that cost you money, like a larger car or apartment.
To offset these costs, many owners look for cheap dog food.
But these are often a false economy, as they have more filler.
If you buy 30 pound bags of dog food like me, prices run anywhere between $30 and $60 USD, with some brands costing even more.
Iams makes an affordable large breed dog food
Many grocery stores, feed stores, or large brand names stores like Walmart or Target carry their own line of dog food.
These dog foods are typically cheaper than dog foods sold by the bigger dog food companies, like Hills, Purina, WellPet, and Blue Buffalo.
Now that you know what to look for, you can check to see if these foods meet AAFCO standards before you buy, and don’t forget to ask your vet.
Best large breed dog food
By this point, you’ve probably realized that finding the best food for large breed dogs is not as simple as we might like.
As convenient as it would be, you should probably not be feeding the same dog food to your Yorkie as you do your Great Dane.
Here is an easy rule of thumb if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Just look for an AAFCO approved dog food that offers a complete and balanced diet marketed for large breed dogs!
The best way to find the best dog food for big dogs is to talk to your veterinarian.
He or she will be able to tell you about any concerns they have regarding your pet’s diet, and may also be able to recommend several different brands to help you narrow down your choices.
Further Reading and Resources
- Sanderson, S. L. ‘Dog and Cat Foods.’ Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Linder, D. E. DVM, MS, DACVN. ‘Confused About What To Feed Your Large Breed Puppy? New Rules May Help!’ Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts. Feb 2017/
- Linder, D. E. DVM, MS, DACVN. ‘Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Pet’s Food.’ Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts. Dec 2016.
- Clinical Nutrition Team. ‘Don’t be bothered by by-products.’ Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts. May 2016.
- Heinze, C. R. VMD, MS, DACVN. ‘Premium pet foods – are they worth the premium price?’ Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts. Oct 2016.
- Kane, E. PhD. ‘Developmental orthopedic disease in large-breed puppies.’ DVM360 Magazine. Feb 2013.
- Association of American Feed Control Officials. ‘Labeling and Labeling Requirements.’
- American College of Veterinary Nutrition. ‘Frequently Asked Questions.’
- The World Small Animal Veterinary Association. ‘The Savvy Dog Owner’s Guide: Nutrition on the Internet.’ WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee.
- Smith, GK et al 2006 Lifelong diet restriction and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis of the hip joints of dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Kealy, RD et al 2000 Evaluation of the effect of limited food consumption on radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.